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Simeon holds off a challenge from Kenwood

Simeon is at the top of the Public League football world and Kenwood desperately wants to be there. Both teams are extremely young this season and only a handful of seniors played when the squads matched up on Saturday at Gately.

Simeon’s George Gumbs (3) comes around end and cuts upfield as the Wolverines play Kenwood.
Simeon’s George Gumbs (3) comes around end and cuts upfield as the Wolverines play Kenwood.
Allen Cunningham/For the Sun-Times

Simeon is at the top of the Public League football world and Kenwood desperately wants to be there. Both teams are extremely young this season and only a handful of seniors played when the squads matched up on Saturday at Gately.

But it was a senior that made the crucial play. Wolverines senior Kaliub Hopkins grabbed an interception with 51 seconds left to seal a 23-18 win for No. 23 Simeon.

“I read the quarterback,” Hopkins said. “I saw him look and I put my trust in it, ran over there and got over the top.”

Kenwood (1-2, 1-2 Illini Red Bird) was driving with a chance to win the game. The Broncos led most of the way, until sophomore Andre Crews ripped off a 40-yard touchdown run with 8:55 to play.

Crews finished with 11 carries for 74 yards and two touchdowns. Simeon, which sat out last week, was definitely rusty. The Wolverines had six fumbles in the game.

“We had two days of practice and 12 days off,” Simeon coach Dante Culbreath said. “It says a lot about these guys. It says a lot about the program to pull this out. We are so young. Starting two freshmen and a sophomore on the offensive line. The whole defense is sophomores and juniors. We have a quarterback that’s never played quarterback in his life. Our running back is just a sophomore.”

Simeon quarterback Korey Flowers was 3-for-13 with two interceptions but had a knack for coming up with big plays right when the Wolverines (3-0, 3-0) needed them. He connected with senior George Gumbs on a 52-yard touchdown pass in the first quarter.

“These young kids work hard everyday,” Gumbs said. “I love them. We were down but they didn’t get their heads down and kept the same energy. They are ready and eager to learn. I just want to give my knowledge to them so they will lock it down when I’m gone.”

Kenwood had multiple college-bound players transfer in the fall. Broncos coach Sinque Turner, a Simeon graduate, thinks hanging with and leading the Wolverines for most of the game will make a significant impact on his talented young group.

“The brand of Simeon will strike fear in a lot of Public League team’s hearts,” Turner said. “Now our guys gained confidence. They battled and that is good momentum going into the fall. The element of the unknown is gone now, we don’t have to worry about the Simeon legend is or whatever. This is good momentum.”

Junior running back Lavor Lindsey had 15 carries for 56 yards for the Broncos. Quarterback Lou Henson, a junior, was 9-for-15 for 106 yards with one interception and one touchdown. He also ran for two scores.

Kenwood’s highly-regarded junior wide receiver/defensive back Jalil Martin had two receptions for 19 yards and two interceptions. Sophomore receiver Logan Lester had 4 catches for 66 yards, including a 13-yard touchdown.

Chicago Public Schools didn’t allow contact days for football teams over the summer or fall and the teams aren’t allowed in their weight rooms. It’s clear the pandemic has severely impacted Public League football.

But there is a startling amount of talented young players on both Kenwood and Simeon. The handful of games they will manage to play this spring should help give them a footing next fall.

“It’s been so unfortunate,” Culbreath said. “It’s emotional for me because of what is going on with the pandemic. I’ve never played kids this young in my life and kids that just haven’t had the practice time. But it is something to build on. I’m proud of them.”